WASHINGTON - In February 2020, the Trump Administration expanded the Muslim and African Ban with Presidential Proclamation 9983, nearly doubling the number of countries targeted for immigration restrictions and exclusions. The six countries added are Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania—all of which have either a Muslim majority or a significant Muslim population, four of which are African nations.
When added to the list of already banned countries—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Venezuela—the expansion brings the total number of currently banned countries to 13, nearly half of which are located on the African continent. The Muslim and African Bans have always been discriminatory. The first Ban (before the end of 2017 there would be four iterations) delivered on Trump’s December 2015 campaign promise for the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
It is important to note that in his speech, Trump cited a poll commissioned by the anti-Muslim organization Center for Security Policy. Bridge Initiative research has demonstrated that this poll was methodologically flawed resulting in inflammatory and dubious findings. In addition to Trump’s long history of negative comments about Islam and Muslims, including “Islam hates us,” the President also has a track record of animus against refugees and non-white immigrants. During his 2016 presidential campaign and into his presidency, Trump has repeatedly referred to Syrian refugees as “snakes” and as “Trojan horses.”
Additionally, he has regularly referred to immigrants, migrants, and asylum seekers from Latin America as “criminals,” “rapists,” “gang members,” and an “invasion.” In an Oval Office meeting on immigration in January 2018, Trump reportedly made pejorative and racist comments in which he described Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as “shithole” countries, and asked why the U.S. could not increase immigration from countries such as Norway.
Seven months prior, Trump also reportedly singled out Haitians and Nigerians, derogatorily claiming that Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts” once they had come to the U.S. Nigeria was added to the Muslim and African Ban in February 2020, barring all visas for permanent immigration to the U.S. Moreover, such language linking Black immigrants to disease would foreshadow rhetoric that Trump would again employ in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic.